The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

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It’s the kind of story that keeps parents up at night. After Anne and Marco Conti’s babysitter cancels at the last minute, the couple argues about what to do. Anne wants to cancel their dinner date next door. Her neighbor Cynthia has made it very clear their six-month old daughter Cora is not welcome. Marco convinces Anne to go anyway. They’ll bring the baby monitor. They’ll check on their daughter every thirty minutes. She’ll be fine.
Annie, wine-drunk, struggling with postnatal depression and watching her husband flirt with her hot-ass neighbor wants to leave after a few hours. It was a mistake to leave Cora. It keeps churning around in her head: What kind of mother would leave her child? She finally convinces Marco to leave and they come home to a slightly ajar door. Marco suggests she forgot to lock it. “After all” he points out (dickishly) “you have been drinking.” Of course, she didn’t leave the door open. They get to the nursery and the crib is empty. Cora is missing.
All of this happens in the first chapter. Detectives come pouring in, discovering unidentified tire tracks in the garage and a disabled motion detector. They can’t find any evidence anyone else was in the house and the Conti’s soon find themselves under suspicion. Throw in some weird neighbors, Romney-rich in-laws and of course…SECRETS. Gotta have your secrets.
The book was captivating for awhile, but eventually became unbearably boilerplate. In my boredom, I started playing Thriller Bingo, looking for all of the tropes on display. Missing child? Check. A police force that couldn’t investigate its way out of an Encyclopedia Brown book? Check.The couple that seems to have it all? Check (also, can we put that tired concept to rest? No one has it all, and if your book’s synopsis starts with that sentence, I reserve the right to hide your book in the arts and craft section of my local library). Mousy woman struggling with basic human tasks? Check. Dumbass husband in over his head? Checkaroo…oh Marco, you bad boy.
But my biggest problem with “The Couple Next Door” wasn’t that it was derivative. Rather, this book deteriorated as it went on, culminating in a ludicrous finale that comes out of nowhere. No spoilers, but the last chapter simply makes no fucking sense.
To sum up: “The Couple Next Door” was trashy but not the fun kind of trashy. The characters were unlikable but not the fun kind of unlikable. The twist endings were fucking nuts but definitely not the fun kind of fucking nuts. This book is like if Lifetime took itself seriously. And no one wants that.

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